Another way to scam money from small businesses is rearing its ugly head. Last month, a scammer tried to swindle a local coffee shop in Omaha, NE.
After applying for a trademark for their business, the owner of Mug Life Coffee began receiving letters requesting payment (more than $2,500) for placing the trademark on various international registries. Mug Life’s lawyer, however, advised against paying the fees, as these registries did not matter.
This scenario is not unheard of.
In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) warns trademark owners to be aware of companies that perform this type of trademark scams. Many of these private companies are named so that trademark owners can confuse them with the USPTO and believe the letters are genuine. The USPTO even has a list of several dozen known scamming companies.
Intellectual property scams are not limited to trademarks. Patent trolling can also be an issue. Patent trolling occurs when a business owner receives a letter stating that the business is practicing patent infringement.
If you’ve been a victim of trademark scamming, the USPTO is not able to assist in getting your money refunded because these practices are not technically illegal. The best course of action is to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC can investigate the companies and their practices; however, businesses are not likely to receive their money back from the FTC either.
Having to worry about scams is just one concern small business owners have. MaxFilings has more valuable information about running a successful business, like when to file for a patent, in our knowledge center.